Nostalgia 101: ERB Brewday – 500 & 5 Gal of Beer on the Wall

(A trip down memory lane.  My first commercial brew day @ ERB with Eric Garcia and Jeremy)

So much has happened since the last entry – I’m not actually sure if I’ll be able to remember it all, but I’m gonna try.

John and I got together for a business discussion at the beginning of last week.  We kept our conversation very high level as this was the first meeting in the last couple of weeks.  I brought up a couple articles that I had read concerning Growler popularity in new year and the recent acquisition of the largest beer producer in mexico by Heineken.  What does that all mean? I try to think of it as making our job easier in the long run.  As the big guys join together like some giant parasitic blob it makes the little guys stand out.  It’ll be easier for us to raise a stink and showcase our beer…then again we are going up against many many other little guys and some other bigger little guys.  There is a tough battle ahead.

Talking about the beer business wasn’t the only thing we were up to.  We also had a bit of Research and Development scheduled.  I purchased a few examples of old ales and imperial stouts to sample.  John is getting ready to take a BJCP class and so this was a great practice run through at tasting notes.  We sampled/drank and Imperial Stout called The Abyss by Deschutes in Oregon.  I’ve had this one before and it’s been on my mind ever since.    It’s a perfect beer in my mind and has a beautiful brown head.  It’s completely complicated, retardedly refreshing, and deliciously decadent.  Malt, balance, heft, roast, smoothness…it’s all here.  I wish I could have this every day when I got home from work…so I’m going to brew something like it.  If you haven’t had it before think of Old Rasputin…except this is his Grandfather who is older, wiser, and could perhaps be the devil.

We also sampled a few other that were pretty good, but couldn’t get to everything.  I made my way through two of the old ales – Old Suffolk and North Coast’s Old Stock Ale – a couple days ago.  Both were very good, but very different.  Suffolk was more along the lines of a nutty brown english ale where as Old Stock harkened back to the Bruery’s Papier.  Dark Fruit, thickness, darkness, sweet, and alcoholic.  There is definitely something old and downright medieval about this style…me thinks I like.

Katie helped me bottle the stout my dad and I did during christmas.  It’s been sitting for longer than any one of my beers has ever sat.  Aging on bourbon soaked toasted oak, this stout was by no means imperial, but it’s sure smells like it is.  I have a feeling that it didn’t attenuate enough…I can remember taking the gravity when I moved it into secondary, but I’m thinking now that could have been a dream.  It doesn’t taste overly sugary, but the gravity says otherwise.  Even still, this will be a good desert beer.  I’ll hopefully rectify this issue with the the next batch.  This batch was a lot different than all the rest because it required me to take periodic samplings to make sure the taste was heading in the right direction.  I’m not looking for overpowering oak-bourbon, I’m looking for a subtle hint for those lucky enough to have the palette to find it.  I purchased a wine-thief to take the samples.  A cool little device.

Brettomyces Claussenii is a wild yeast mixed with lactobacillus.  I threw this yeast into the fermentor with the first batch of Saison 3.  This was the batch where John, RJ, and I had a bit of temperature trouble.  I don’t even what near boiling water does to malt other than destroy enzymes.  Hopefully we extracted enough stuff to make an okay beer.  Brettoymyces Claussenii is supposed to be an addition that will help break down all the complex sugars we probably pulled out of the grain.  My brewer friend Jeremy of Eagle Rock Brewery suggested this addition to me.  I’m excited to see what happens, but there is one caveat – it will take around a year to see what happens.  Will it be cat pee? Will it be amazing?  Some beer judge is definitely going to find out.  John?

Superbowl sunday was a blast and it started off just right with a trip to Eagle Rock Brewery.  After some great conversation and delicious beer, Katie and I headed over to Keith’s bringing with us my grandma’s potato salad.  It’s hard to figure out which one I like more when I’m surrounded by amazing food and beer…I tend to eat more than I drink which has it’s toll.  Time for another run.

Matt invited John and I over for an ESB brew session.  He was pretty much done when I got there, well the hot break was just starting anyway.  I’m still adding it to my brew tally.  After the brewing and racking was over I headed home…work has been especially rough lately and my energy level has been flat-lining.

Okay…let’s take a few steps back.  I had an amazing experience last thursday.  I was invited to come down and help Jeremy & Co. brew a batch at Eagle Rock Brewery! What an incredible experience…it was a long day too.  I got there at 8:00 AM and left a little after 11:00 PM.  I have a whole new respect for brewers and their heavy lifting.  It’s one thing to do a 5-10 gallon batch, but 500 gallons? That’s a completely different monster.  The process is virtually the same, but there is just so much more of everything.  Milling 1000 lbs of grain, shoveling 1000 lbs of wet grain out of the mash tun, cleaning giant fermenters and boilers, adding tons of hops, racking tons of beer, moving and boiling tons of water, shoveling tons of yeast, cleaning cleaning cleaning!  It was great and I can’t wait to do it again, but my body was raped and pillaged by Senior Manuel Labour.

It’s also one of those things that requires serious teamwork.  When you are moving 500 gallons of boiling wort or cleaning with phosphoric acid you need to be on top of your game and make sure you are communicating.  With home-brewing it’s something you can potentially do by yourself, but commercially I don’t really think it’s a “safe” option.  Again, this whole experience opened my eyes to the complications, reality, and wonders of commercial brewing.  I’m was so excited the next…I wanted to tell everyone, but to those outside the beer brewing world…it’s just more beer talk.

I was able to talk to Jeremy about the potential brewery that John and I will someday start.  He, as always, had a lot of good advice.  I met some cool people – Eric Guiterez, Eun Suong, and Ben (I think) that were helping out that day too.  Different backgrounds, but all interested in beer.  Jeremy had us taste some of his experiments including an AMAZING imperial amber wit beer and an incredibly complex dark belgian strong.  It’s probably hard as a brewer to open a brewery and have to pick just 3 beers as your regular stock when you know you want to keep making something different.  I know they plan on releasing some of these as limited seasonal batches though.  Can’t wait.  Again, I had a great time and thanks for the experience Jeremy, Ting, and Steve.  Fight on!

That’s all for this update.  I’ll be roasting some of my own grain and adjuncts this weekend so until next time…this is Peter Veinkmen saying….”……” (finger to temple).

Yeast vs Shovel

Steamy

Grain Mill

About Kristofor Barnes

Kip is the founder of Bierkast and co-founder of Los Angeles Ale Works. Picking up home brewing after college, he has since become an accomplished award winning home brewer, LA Beer Blogger, and author of the Beer Lover's Guide to Southern California. Kip is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Cinema Television. He lives in Inglewood, CA with his sciency wife Katie. Follow him @bierkast or #FollowTheLAAW @laaleworks

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